Parents and Grandparents of UW-Madison Students Targeted by Phone Scammers

The UW Police Department issued a press release last week warning parents and grandparents of University of Wisconsin-Madison students of a phone scam targeting them.

According to the release, UWPD has received several reports of these scam phone calls, in which callers claim to be from a government payment agency and demand payment information on the phone.

Recently, the callers became more specific, claiming to be members of UWPD. When parents or grandparents pick up the phone, callers inform them that their student has been arrested and demand immediate pay to release the student from jail.

Callers often demand that parents and grandparents withdraw cash and wire them money through Western Union, or buy a cash card and give them the number over the phone. They also ask for credit card and banking information.

According to people who’ve received these calls, the number shows up as a legitimate UWPD number, and officials believe that the calls are coming from a localized number belonging to a larger phone scam. The current scam may be nationwide and targets financial information.

Unfortunately, the “grandparents scam” has been around for a while, and the FBI has received reports of it since 2008. Scammers create an urgent situation and trick concerned seniors into wiring them money, sometimes totaling thousands of dollars. For whatever reason, this particular scam has remained prevalent in Wisconsin over the years.

Authorities remind the public that police department representatives will never call to demand money for a citation, warrant or to release someone from custody. Remember, most poor telephone sales calls will just leave you with a bad impression. They won’t make you feel intimidated or pressured.

If you receive a call that makes you feel threatened, officials recommend informing the caller that you’re calling the police and hang up immediately. If you didn’t give any information and you don’t feel like harm will come to you, you don’t need to call the police.

However, if you feel like you may be in danger, or you gave out financial information, the official release requests that you call police and file a report.